By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Allegations over fraud and abuse in Oklahoma State University football, dating from over a decade ago through 2007 and perhaps later, are detailed in a multi-part series in America’s most popular sports magazine.
The stories have it all: sex and drugs, rocky relations between players and coaches, pay-to-play for aggressive plays, and big-time corruption.
Are the stories true, or mostly true?
In the late 1970s, I was a graduate teaching assistant at OSU. First, I taught two sections of American History after the Civil War, then Sociology of Education for two years. In the latter work, I supervised a half-dozen teaching assistants and monitored classroom teaching.
Over four years, I had several hundred students of all backgrounds, including athletes and the children of high-dollar donors.
In my second year teaching history, I watched a student in the back row rather boldly cheat on his final exam. He made little or no effort to conceal himself, leaning over to look at answers, for the multiple-choice portion, from neighbors.
When he turned the test in, I wrote a big “F” on it. In the office, I wrote up a description of what I had witnessed. He garnered that F on the test and in the course the old fashioned way – he earned it.
His Daddy contacted university officials, who talked to my chairman, who asked me to come in and meet. I gave him my memo and answered questions. A university vice president called to discuss the matter, then thanked me for handling the issue.
The “F” stood, and I never heard anything more about the incident.
Years later, I was working in Washington, D.C. when Dexter Manley, a wildly popular lineman for the Redskins who had attended OSU, testified before Congress, claiming he was illiterate. The assertions garnered wide attention and gave OSU a black eye.
At the time, I wrote to share the story about my experience with the donor’s son. Never, not once, in four years teaching at OSU did I ever perceive any pressure to treat a football player different than any other student. I was skeptical about Manley’s allegations, timed well to coincide with release of a book about his life. I certainly had a different experience to share about education at OSU.
While many students assumed football players were treated more leniently than others, what I experienced did not confirm that. To be clear, this was in the “wild west” 1970s.
Flash forward to 2007.
Almost-new football Coach Mike Gundy, in a post-game press conference, went off on sports reporter Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper. He screamed at her (no obscenities, but strong words) over stories she had written about the apparent slippage of quarterback Bobby Reid – an all-round nice guy who wasn’t cutting it as starting field general.
Around the OSU Nation, response was electric – immediate and overwhelming support for Gundy, vilification of Carlson, a rallying of the team around the coach.
M contrarian reaction, both as an OSU alum and a journalist, was that Gundy’s behavior was execrable. My views were shared widely with fellow OSU graduates, and were rejected.
They thought this was all about the coach “sticking up for his player” against the mean lady reporter.
I called B.S. on that. Gundy was a representative of the university, and Carlson’s questions for news stories and her observations in commentaries were legitimate, whether or not one agreed with her conclusions. Gundy’s performance (which took on legendary status via YouTube and TV sports reports) in that infamous exchange was irresponsible, but even Rush Limbaugh sided with the coach over the reporter.
I told my wife (also an OSU grad) the day of Gundy’s meltdown: “There’s something more going on here than Gundy being pissed at a reporter, or sticking up for a player. Something is really, really bothering him.”
Gundy was dealing with a lot the day he yelled at Carlson, “I’m a man. I’m 40,” suggesting she target news reports at him rather than at the team.
The question to which we’ll eventually know an answer is whether or not Gundy was at that time in the middle of the mess Sports Illustrated claims was OSU football for most (if not all) of the last decade, or an innocent bystander.
Or, maybe it will clearer whether or not SI went a bridge too far with a story with sourcing based on players angered over limited playing time and other perceived slights, and written in part by a reporter known for his animus toward OSU.
For now, it seems that there must have been more than met the eye in the Gundy tirade.
I just hope that rant was the boiling frustrations of a righteous man, and not the anger over a surging tide of behind-the-scenes pressures on a culpable player in a sordid tale.
You may contact McGuigan at [email protected]
OSU football’s Sex, drugs, rock ’n roll: More, or less, than meets the eye?
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